Warning: I’m Going to Eat All of the Local Fruit

I’m here to testify about the day I ate The Local Nectarine That Changed My Life.

I was familiar with nectarines before that day. I mean, I knew what they were. When I was a kid in tiny-town Wisconsin, my mom would periodically buy them, but they were trucked from points unknown, and they were either crunchy or mealy, or crunchy and mealy, and they sported all the charm of damp drywall.

Good lord. I actually thought I loathed nectarines. For fruit, I preferred grape pop, thank you.

But on the day I ate The Local Nectarine That Changed My Life and was saved from a life of crud-fruit and grape pop, I was working my first job in a produce department (Wheatsville Co-op in Austin, Texas). I was opening a case of local nectarines from the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas. As I opened the cardboard flaps, a waft of ripe fruit smell hit me (the scent was pectin, I know now), and I'd never smelled anything so good in my life. My manager Mariela was passing at just that moment, happened to catch a whiff of the nectarines, and said, "Oh, my god, let's try one!"

I remember it all in slow-motion clarity. It was cool and sunny May. The Lemonheads were playing "Big Gay Heart" on the Wheatsville sound system, and Mariela picked up a nectarine and just bit it into, like it was, I don’t know, a piece of fruit or something. My hand hovered over the case. I selected The Nectarine. I bit into it.

I’d never eaten a nectarine that way, within hours of its native orchard, and without having been on refrigeration for days as it made its way across the country. Maybe I knew the word “nectarine,” but, until Texas, I wasn’t fluent in nectarine. This was sweeter and tangier than any piece of fruit I’d ever tasted.

It was like a betrayal.  I stood there astonished, frozen in awe, dripping fruit in hand. “No one ever told me nectarines were this good!”

I swore then and there, that I would never let a local fruit season drift by without my rabid participation again.

If you aren’t familiar with the seasonal fruits and veggies where you live, maybe this will be the season that you make the same promise. Because wherever you are, whatever climate or altitude, I guarantee there is a conspiracy of sunlight and sugar being committed behind your back, and it’s high-time for you to expose it.  Do you know which berries are fattening on bushes around you? Do you know when the local fruits are sweetest, richest in vitamins? Which farmers are plucking and packing them right now?

You don’t have a lot of time to figure it out. Growing seasons of small, local farmers are brief, so, to the swift goes the race, and I’ll be blunt: I amthe swift, and the race goes to me.

Fair warning: Right now, I know that local Wisconsin organic blueberries are speeding their way to my Twin Cities co-ops. Maybe you don’t care for fruit perfection, but my heart and body are completely synched to the seasonal blueberry clock. When those babies arrive, I’ll buy up and roll them into a bowl. I’ll put the Lemonheads on, and I’ll have myself another sacred moment of transcendent sugar-glory just like I did back in Texas. Same with raspberries. The first local melons. Late-summer apples.

Are you with me? I kind of hope not. Because if you don’t make the trip to the co-op, take the time to know when these fruits come in, spend the extra effort this year? God bless you, pal, because that’s all the more for me.